I say this has to be necessary to live. I say the festivals and the concerts and the times in the park when someone had music to liven the mood, or the times when youth was most alive is, was, and will always be enhanced by the sound of the music we played.
I know this is true. It has to be.
I say this is necessary. I say the music is partly how we live and breathe, partly how we feel, partly how we unwind and partly how we remember the crazy episodes of our life. Music gives depth to our senses and livens the pictures in our memory with color.
Please believe me on this one.
There was a time I spent much of an afternoon on a hill in Central Park. I listened to music that mapped out a good portion of my crazy teenage life. I had Led Zeppelin wired to my ears.
My eyes were bloodshot and half shut but the smile on my face was unstoppable and undeniable. And sure, I was up to no good at the time. I was also alive and thinking, feeling, and living in a moment that will never be seen again. I was listening to some of the anthems of my long haired rebellions and waiting on a friend who we all knew as Crazy Eddie.
I do not regret these crazy moments. Instead, I think about the music I played, which acted like a soundtrack that fit the different categories of my life.
I swear this was all perfect. Even if nothing else was perfect, at least the music fit me just right.
There were times in my life that absolutely nothing made sense to me. But the music did. The music I chose had a way of saying what I could never explain. Sometimes, notes from the guitar were able to weep for me when I was too afraid to weep for myself. I swear this is true. Even the idea of a road trip would mean nothing without the right music to keep us company.
This is the reason. This is the intention of music; to fill our hearts and occupy our thoughts for a while; to let us unwind, to let us sing, and to let the moment turn into something with depth so it clings to our memory and we can hold this forever.
I don’t know about you but I can remember exactly where I was the first time I recall hearing an album on a record player.
Now, unfortunately kids today will not have this same experience — nor will they know what it feels like to save up a few bucks and walk across town to a record store, just to buy an album.
I don’t suppose kids today will understand the feeling I had when the needle hit the record and Pink Floyd began to play — nor will they know about the walk I took to buy my first Black Sabbath tape. In fact, most kids today won’t even know who Pink Floyd or Black Sabbath is.
But I do.
I walked home in the rain that day. I bought my first cassette tape with my own money and listened to it play on my Walkman, which is another thing kids today will never know about.
The rain wasn’t too heavy. But it could have been, which was fine. I don’t really remember because I don’t think I even cared. I had my hood pulled up and music in my ears. what else could matter? I walked home listening to the songs from my teenage life. And yes, I say this was necessary.
I say it is absolutely necessary to see a band play live. I say it is essential to stand in an arena and watch the lights and hear the sound of music blare into the audience. I say it is essential to know the feeling of remembering the words to a song and then to be at a show where the band plays live. This is an amazing feeling. You know the words. As huge as it is, the arena is hot and the feeling is more than just electrified. You sing out as loud as you can with the rest of the crowd. You sing and you dance and get as wild as your freedom allows you to. And again, yes, I say this is necessary.
There was a moment I shared with my daughter when she was somewhere around the age of 13. I played a few songs that meant something to me. The music fit in with a few of the crazier moments in my life.
I did not share the stories with her. I just shared the music. I watched her look out the window and nod her head to the beat. I could tell she understood. I could tell she could feel it. I say this is meaningful. This is the way we give our memory depth for the times when we cannot relive them and instead, we can play a song and re-feel the memory exactly as it was.
I remember the first time I was heading over the 59th Street Bridge for a night out in the City. I always linked this night to a song that was on the radio by Joe Jackson called Steppin’ Out.
These notes of mine that I have compiled in a file called, “The Boys,” have a soundtrack as well. The samples from the bands I loved help me connect to some of the greatest memories I will ever own.
Many of the best experiences of my life are linked to music. Some of my intimate memories are linked to music as well. Like say, Jimi Hendrix, And The Gods Made Love played onto a song called Electric Ladyland.
There is music I listened to from my youth which is different from the music of my young adulthood. And I laugh about this because somehow, I have become like The Old Man when talking to these kids today. I find myself telling them, “You don’t know music. I grew up with real music!”
I laugh because this was said to me by my Father. And now I’m saying this to the current generation, which I assume will pass down to the generation that follows them.
There was a friend of mine that I never met before. I only saw a few pictures of him. He was stationed overseas and fighting in the war against terrorism. He used to read my blogs on a tattoo website. It was Memorial Day Weekend. I sent him a description of my town. I told him about a place called Eisenhower Park. I told him about the streets in my town and the streets I used to live on.
I explained a little bit of the town’s history to me. I told him about the crazy teenage parties and the beer. I told him about the young, long haired rebellions of mine and how through it all, my town was always a place where I could hide, or be out, or know where to go and how to get there. I wrote about the music, which he and I shared the same tastes for. His name was Erik, by the way.
I told him about the way my home smells around dinnertime and explained about the deck behind my home, and the barbecue ideas that we’d come up with from time to time. I learned how to make beer can chicken, which was good.
I did my best to put as much meat on the bones so that my friend Erik could see, hear, feel, and almost taste, what it would be like to be stateside and home.
Sadly, Erik never made it back. He died in action. I am grateful however, because at least he knew that there was someone pulling for him. In some of his messages, Erik would explain that his surroundings were something he didn’t want to see anymore. So he would ask for descriptions of my home, which I would share with hopes to bring a sense of hopefulness.
I am grateful for the times I was able to give him something else to picture.
I think of Erik often. More accurately, I always think about him on Memorial Day.
There was a man I lived with about 30 years ago. He was older, of course, with a long, reddish brown beard and hair that was cropped short with a part in the middle. The sides were feathered, like a style from the 70’s.
He was in Vietnam. He was my friend. He was the first real person I ever met that told me what happens in times of war.
I said two words to him that made all the difference in our friendship. I extended my hand and said, “Thank you.”
Simple. Two words.
My friend explained, “Shit, kid, I hardly even got a ‘Welcome home,’ when I came back.”
This man saw the worst. He saw the unimaginable. All I can say is at least he saw something from me.
At least he and I shared a fascination for music. We talked about the songs that pulled us through hard times, good times, and the crazy times alike.
I swear this is necessary. The music, I mean because somehow, no matter what is happening, if you find the right song, everything can be alright.
By the way, my friend loved The Beatles. He liked Cream. Moreover, he loved the song Tales of Brave Ulysses to be exact.
See what I mean?
If I didn’t have music, I wouldn’t have the details in my mind to make these memories as vivid as they are and give them depth.